If You Build It, The Neighbor Kids Will Come

johnfaceI’m not a very handy guy. I know, I know….. shocking. When you look around my house you can see that we’ve done quite a bit to it in the years that we’ve lived there. We’ve completely finished the basement, put new flooring in the dining room and kitchen and made lots of small upgrades here and there. But almost all of those projects were done in spite of my skills, not because of them. I may have physically performed a great deal of those tasks but really a lot of it was done because of the guidance and assistance of my father in law who (like many dads of that generation) has the ability to build or repair just about anything. Maybe it’s because my own dad wasn’t around much as a kid, but those skill sets appear to have passed me by (let me know if you need help beating the last boss in Tomb Raider though).

Despite my inability to communicate with my inner Handy Manny, my wife and I recently decided to pull the trigger on a project that we’ve been talking about for several years, a swing set for the kids. In case you’re unaware, swing sets these days don’t look anything like the rusty old tetanus factories that I was used to playing on as a child. These days they are wooden towers with everything from rock climbing walls to slides and monkey bars. Assembling such a thing was most definitely outside of my comfort zone, but our girls are getting older and we decided that we wanted to do it before they graduated college.

imageSo after choosing a fairly modest set, we anxiously awaited it’s delivery. When the crate finally arrived and I managed to get it all unpacked, a sea of lumber, bolts and screws filled my garage. It was hard to not be immediately overwhelmed by the task at hand, but with nowhere to park our vehicles I figured that procrastinating was probably a bad idea and got to work. After some initial confusion due to the sheer magnitude of the job, I managed to get into a fairly steady rhythm. I started with building the basic frame, then the flooring, walls, etc. This was going to be a long job that would take several days but I quickly realized that it was (surprisingly) within the realm of my abilities.

Chloe (my 8yr old) came over at one point on the first afternoon to check on my progress and asked “Can I help with anything, Daddy?”. I told that I would take care of it and that she could go and play with her sister. “But I wanna help, we’re a team” she answered, and how the heck was I supposed to say no to that? She spent the rest of the day as my assistant, using the measuring tape to find the right boards, checking the instructions to see what the next step was, and helping me hold the pieces in place as I screwed them together. She was more interested in helping me work than running around and playing on a beautiful day. That’s when it clicked, and this pain in the butt chore turned into an awesome bonding moment for me and my girls.

Samantha (who’s only four) wanted in on the action too and helped pull the trigger on the power drill and bring me more screws. The two of them spent the next several days running around and helping my wife and I finish the job, their excitement building as they saw it getting closer and closer to completion. And after 4 days and nearly 20 hours of work, it was done. The kids climbed all over it, exploring every nook and cranny while screaming “this is the best day ever!”. Their friends in the neighborhood came running to check it out and Adam brought Elliott over to help break in the slide. We sat back and watched all the hard work paid off with some of the biggest grins I’ve seen on those girls.


Now that it’s done I realize that not only will the kids get years of fun out of their new playhouse, but I’ll have those memories of the four of us working and having fun building something together. It seems like I just blinked and Chloe went from being a toddler to an 8 year old who’s almost as tall as her mom and before you know it I’ll blink again and she’ll be going to high school. I need to collect as many of these memories as I can before spending time with their dad isn’t cool anymore. Because when I’m an old man and they’ve all gone their separate ways with families of their own, these will be the memories that I’ll be holding onto.


3 thoughts on “If You Build It, The Neighbor Kids Will Come

  1. Sounds great on so many levels!
    I know what you mean about not being handy, but it sounds like you have more skills that you give yourself credit for.
    Anyway, it’s great that the kids were so helpful and appreciative. That makes every situation better.

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